[whatwg] API for encoding/decoding ArrayBuffers into text

Kenneth Russell kbr at google.com
Tue Mar 27 19:43:27 PDT 2012

On Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 6:44 PM, Glenn Maynard <glenn at zewt.org> wrote:
> On Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 7:12 PM, Kenneth Russell <kbr at google.com> wrote:
>>   - I think it should reference DataView directly rather than
>> ArrayBufferView. The typed array spec was specifically designed with
>> two use cases in mind: in-memory assembly of data to be sent to the
>> graphics card or audio device, where the byte order must be that of
>> the host architecture;
> This is wrong, broken, won't be implemented this way by any production
> browser, isn't how it's used in practice, and needs to be fixed in the
> spec.  It violates the most basic web API requirement: interoperability.
> Please see earlier in the thread; the views affected by endianness need to
> be specced as little endian.  That's what everyone is going to implement,
> and what everyone's pages are going to depend on, so it's what the spec
> needs to say.  Separate types should be added for big-endian (eg.
> Int16BEArray).

Thanks for your input.

The design of the typed array classes was informed by requirements
about how the OpenGL, and therefore WebGL, API work; and from prior
experience with the design and implementation of Java's New I/O Buffer
classes, which suffered from horrible performance pitfalls because of
a design similar to that which you suggest.

Production browsers already implement typed arrays with their current
semantics. It is not possible to change them and have WebGL continue
to function. I will go so far as to say that the semantics will not be

In the typed array specification, unlike Java's New I/O specification,
the API was split between two use cases: in-memory data construction
(for consumption by APIs like WebGL and Web Audio), and file and
network I/O. The API was carefully designed to avoid roadblocks that
would prevent maximum performance from being achieved for these use
cases. Experience has shown that the moment an artificial performance
barrier is imposed, it becomes impossible to build certain kinds of
programs. I consider it unacceptable to prevent developers from
achieving their goals.

> I also disagree that it should use DataView.  Views are used to access
> arrays (including strings) within larger data structures.  DataView is used
> to access packed data structures, where constructing a view for each
> variable in the struct is unwieldy.  It might be useful to have a helper in
> DataView, but the core API should work on views.

This is one point of view. The true design goal of DataView is to
supply the primitives for fast file and network input/output, where
the endianness is explicitly specified in the file format. Converting
strings to and from binary encodings is obviously an operation
associated with transfer of data to or from files or the network.
According to this taxonomy, the string encoding and decoding
operations should only be associated with DataView, and not the other
typed array types, which are designed for in-memory data assembly for
consumption by other hardware on the system.

>>  - It would be preferable if the encoding API had a way to avoid
>> memory allocation, for example to encode into a passed-in DataView.
> This was an earlier design, and discussion led to it being removed as a
> premature optimization, to simplify the API.  I'd recommend reading the rest
> of the thread.

I do apologize for not being fully caught up on the thread, but hope
that the input above was still useful.


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